You could almost hear the guffaw from here, though Miguel Cotto probably tried to stifle his laughter out of polite respect for a relatively unknown fighter just trying to sell himself.
That’s what Paulie Malignaggi is doing – selling. He’s peddling himself and his considerable talent, letting everyone know there will be a street fight taking place Saturday night at Madison Square Garden instead of a one-sided, back-alley beating.
How well is Malignaggi (21-0, 5 KOs) marketing himself and the pay-per-view fight against Cotto (26-0, 22 KOs)? Let’s just say there’s a bright future for him in used-car sales when he’s 40 and his quickness and reflexes have both gone south.
But despite Malignaggi’s strong sales pitch, it doesn’t sound like Cotto is in a buying mood.
Sure, he considers Malignaggi a legitimate, honest-to-God, fast-talking, hard-nosed threat to his WBO junior-welterweight title. But c’mon, knocking Cotto out like Malignaggi says he‘s going to do? Malignaggi is known for his hand speed, but there’s been no recorded sightings of a serious bang in his punch.
“He doesn’t have the power or the courage to knock me out,” Cotto said on a recent conference call. “It’s one of the several lies he’s been saying.”
Well, it’s not really a lie yet, but Cotto’s point is well taken. And if the prediction doesn’t turn out to be true, it’s still a good story.
Besides, Cotto said he doesn’t know much about Malignaggi’s fighting style.
“All I know is, he’s been talking a lot and I think when you do that, it‘s because you don‘t know if you can back it up,” Cotto said. “And I don’t think he can.”
Apparently, Cotto isn’t losing sleep as the fight approaches.
“It’s the first time somebody had the guts to say what they’re going to do to me in the ring,” Cotto said. “I just hope he has the guts to stand up and fight.”
If Malignaggi doesn’t land that fantasy knockout punch, Cotto said he’ll chase him for 12 rounds if that’s what it takes.
“This guy has done nothing,” said Cotto, a Puerto Rican fighting on the eve of the Puerto Rican parade in New York City. “He’s only taking this opportunity that we’re giving him to try to sell himself. But once the fight is over, he’ll go right back where he came from. He’ll be back fighting in the clubs in New York.”
Cotto said he did have to tip his hat to Malignaggi for selling himself as a viable opponent.
“I think that’s good for the fight,” Cotto said.
Holding it at MSG is also good for the fight. Along with New York’s strong Puerto Rican population, Malignaggi is from Brooklyn.
They oughta pack the joint.
Even Top Rank promoter Bob Arum worked the hype.
“Malignaggi is probably the quickest guy he’s faced, and Miguel needs to deal with that speed before we can say he‘s complete,” Arum said, perhaps stifling a smile of his own. “I believe he will, and once he does, then he’s ready for anybody out there, whether it’s a Jose Luis Castillo, a Diego Corrales, a Ricky Hatton, or an Arturo Gatti. Anybody.”
Some of us thought Cotto was already there.
Cotto probably thought so, too.
But Arum is right. Hand speed has a way of sneaking up on guys and slapping them along side the head when they‘re not looking. And Malignaggi has it.
“But if Paulie slows down, he’s out of there quick,” Cotto said.
All laughing aside.
Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV